By Debra A. Schwartz
Mining and logging companies are responsible for flooding damage that occurred downstream of their projects in 2001, a West Virginia jury ruled in May. It is believed to be the first time in recent memory that a verdict against the coal or timber industry for damages has been returned.
The flooding of July 8, 2001 caused an estimated $143 million in damages in seven counties. This was the first of a dozen lawsuits seeking compensation for damages.
Jack Spadaro, an expert witness at the trial, said the evidence for increased run-off and flooding as a result of mountaintop removal and clear-cut forestry was clear.
Photos and video of the flooding taken by Bob Gates for the documentary film “mucked” were invaluable, Spadaro said.
“I’ve always felt that if we could get the evidence before a jury of ordinary people we would have a chance,” Spadaro said.
Coal and timber companies reacted to the verdict with dismay. A WV Forestry Association spokesman told the Charleston Gazette that if the case stands, “there wont be any more logging.”
The trial moves on to a second phase in September when damage amounts will be awarded. While this case involved several hundred plaintiffs, several thousand are also preparing lawsuits over this single flood incident.